Up In the Highlands

oil painting, Up In the Highlands, by Bridgette Guerzon Mills
Bridgette Guerzon Mills | Up In the Highlands, 12×9 inches

I painted Up In the Highlands in 2023. It was actually one of those paintings that I painted on top of an older painting. And when I do that there is usually a base of texture that I am working on top of. Which I love. But sometimes the texture is in a place that I don’t love. I thought I could live with it. I even had it hanging up in my studio because while this is a small piece, I learned a lot from it and I wanted to keep it on my wall to remind me.

However. As the months went by, there was texture in the sky that was really bugging me! So finally I sanded it down to acceptable texture and then I repainted the sky. Which was good because I took the opportunity to fix up the tree a bit. I had painted more trees since the first time I had painted this tree and had learned a few things, like adding more dabs of sky in the greens to define the tree better. As can be seen there is is still texture in the sky, but I like it.

This detail shows what it was that I wanted to remember about this painting. I wanted to remember filling up my brush with thick paint and just laying it down. The looseness of the brushstrokes.The loops of the bush that was between the maroon plants. It’s funny how difficult it can be to remain so loose. But I love to see the evidence of the brush.

My photo reference was from a hike in the Grayson Highlands State Park in southwest Virginia. And I just loved the earthy ochre grass admist the maroon brush. There was a wildness and so much movement in the grass and the heather atop the mountain that I wanted to express in my own way. I remembering feeling happy painting this. And that means something! You gotta grab those moments of joy wherever you can.

“You will have to experiment and try things out for yourself and you will not be sure of what you are doing. That’s all right, you are feeling your way into the thing.” – Emily Carr

I painted this at the very end of a run of painting all those landscape paintings for the show I had in August of last year. With each painting, I got more and more comfortable with being more expressive with my brushwork. Makes sense. The more you do, the more you can let go. I recently got back to painting in oils again as I need a break from the wax. And it’s always like starting over. I’ll have to build up that muscle memory again.

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